30 Aug 2011

Lib Dems take stock of AV defeat ahead of conference

In the bundle of documents being sent to Lib Dem members ahead of the Party Conference is a review of the AV referendum (you can see it here). It’s written by James Gurling, Chair of the Campaigns and Communications Committee.

But it kicks off with a kicking for Ed Miliband. It says: “Ed Miliband’s only decisive intervention was to take the tactical opportunity to deliberately undermine Nick Clegg,” a reference to Ed Miliband’s refusal to campaign alongside the Lib Dem leader, claiming that he was a walking voter repellent.

It says that “non-political celebrities did not in the end make it (the Yes to AV campaign) a ‘people’s campaign.'” It also talks of a “a worrying unwillingness of activists to volunteer”, which should raise alarm bells in some Lib Dem ears. That lack of activist involvement Mr Gurling attributes in part to a major strategic error made before the campaign even started: having it on the same day as the local elections. That, Mr Gurling thinks, diluted the resources available and changed the focus of the campaign.

Lib Dem high command is trying to learn lessons from that mistake in its approach to elected police commissioners. Many Lib Dem peers aren’t fans of that policy and there will be ambushes when parliament returns. The high command feels it has to go along with the policy as it’s in the Coalition Agreement. That’s not stopping the Lib Dem leadership trying to get some changes though. They’re interested in drawing out pilots, holding back a national roll-out (maybe even until after the general election). But if elections for police commissioners do happen the Lib Dems will be pushing for them to be held separately from local elections but are shunted way down the political calendar into the Autumn.

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